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Orbital Sciences

For the Australian company, see Orbital Corporation Limited.
Orbital Sciences Corporation
Traded as ORB
Industry Aerospace, defense
Founded Vienna, Virginia, U.S. (1982 (1982))
Founder(s) David W. Thompson
Bruce W. Ferguson
Scott L. Webster
Headquarters Dulles, Virginia, United States
Area served Global
Key people David W. Thompson,
Chairman, President and CEO
Garrett E. Pierce,
Vice Chairman and CFO
Antonio L. Elias,
Executive Vice President and CTO
Products Space Launch Vehicles, Missile Defense Systems, Satellites and Related Systems, Advanced Space Systems, Space Technical Services
Revenue Increase US$1.35 billion (FY 2011)[1]
Operating income Increase US$79.80 million (FY 2011)[1]
Net income Increase US$67.39 million (FY 2011)[1]
Total assets Increase US$1.13 billion (FY 2011)[1]
Total equity Increase US$643.3 million (FY 2009)[1]
Employees 3,700 (March, 2012)

Launch Systems Group
Space Systems Group
Advanced Programs

Technical Services Division

Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC, though commonly referred to as Orbital) is an American company which specializes in the manufacturing and launch of satellites. Its Launch Systems Group is heavily involved with missile defense launch systems. Orbital formerly owned ORBIMAGE (now GeoEye) and the Magellan line of GPS receivers, though they are now divested (the latter to Thales). Orbital's NYSE ticker symbol is ORB. It has its headquarters in the Dulles area of unincorporated Loudoun County, Virginia, United States.[2]

Since its inception Orbital Sciences has built 569 launch vehicles with 82 more to be delivered by 2015. 174 satellites have been built by the company since 1982 with 24 more to be delivered by 2015. Orbital has a 40% share of the interceptor market, 55% share of the small communications satellite market, and a 60% share of the small launch vehicles market.

The company is expanding into the medium-size launch vehicles and satellites market with the development of the Antares rocket and the acquisition of the General Dynamics Advanced Information System Satellite division.[3][verification needed][4]


Orbital was founded in 1982 by David Thompson, Bruce Ferguson and Scott Webster.[5] In 1990, the company successfully carried out eight space missions, highlighted by the initial launch of the Pegasus rocket.[6] In 2006 Orbital conducted its 500th mission since the company’s founding.

In 1997 it spun off its space imaging division Orbital Space Imaging or ORBIMAGE (with Thompson then as chairman). It is now GeoEye.

On March 4, 2010, Orbital Sciences announced it was acquiring General Dynamics Advanced Information System's Satellite division, which was formerly Spectrum Astro. The purchase price was $55 million and the deal was closed on April 2, 2010.[7] Orbital Sciences stated the deal added nearly $70 million in revenue and slightly improved 2010 earnings, and expects the business to add approximately $100 million in revenue in 2011.[8] Approximately 325 employees of the General Dynamics division and the Gilbert, AZ campus of the General Dynamics division were retained.[9]

In 2010, Orbital made a commercial proposal to NASA to develop a lifting-body spaceplane vehicle, about one-quarter the size of the Space Shuttle, in response to NASA's Commercial Crew Development phase 2 solicitation. The Vertical Takeoff, Horizontal Landing (VTHL) vehicle would be launched on a human-rated (upgraded) Atlas V rocket but would land on a runway.[10] The proposed spaceplane would seat four astronauts.[11] NASA expected to make approximately $200 million of phase 2 awards by March 2011, for technology development projects that could last up to 14 months.[12] Failing to be selected for an CCDev phase 2 award by NASA, Orbital announced in April 2011 that they will likely wind down their efforts to develop a commercial crew vehicle.[13]

On Sunday, April 21, 2013 Orbital Sciences successfully launched a test flight, putting the company on a path to becoming the second commercial entity to transport cargo to the international space station. The 131-foot Antares rocket made its maiden voyage from a recently completed launch complex on Wallops Island, off the Virginia coast. It carried a dummy payload. The blast-off capped a roughly $1 billion investment.[14]

Business groups

Space Systems Group (SSG)

Orbital is a provider of small- to medium-class satellites. Since the company's founding in 1982, Orbital has delivered over 110 spacecraft to commercial, military and civil customers worldwide. To date, these spacecraft have amassed a total of nearly 630 years of on-orbit operations.[15]

Launch Systems Group (LSG)

Orbital's space launch vehicles primarily focus on boosting small payloads to orbit. The Pegasus rocket is launched from the company's L-1011 carrier aircraft, Stargazer and has proven to be the industry's small space launch workhorse, having conducted 40 missions from six different launch sites worldwide since 1990. The Taurus and Minotaur ground-launched rockets combine Pegasus upper stages with either government-supplied or commercially available first-stage rocket motors to boost larger payloads to orbit. Minotaur IV is the newest addition to Orbital's line of space boosters and combines decommissioned Peacekeeper rocket motors with Orbital avionics and fairings. The Minotaur IV is only available to launch U.S. Government sponsored payloads.[16]

On March 4, 2011 the NASA Glory atmospheric research mission satellite was lost due to a mechanical failure on an Orbital built Taurus XL rocket. This failure follows the earlier loss on February 24, 2009 of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory due to a similar failure on a Taurus XL rocket. The total loss to NASA for these two failures is estimated to be nearly $700 million.[17] Still, NASA has expressed confidence in Orbital as a cargo provider to the International Space Station.[18]

Orbital is also a provider of suborbital launch vehicles for the nation's missile defense systems. In the last 10 years it has conducted nearly 50 launches for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), the Air Force, the Army and Navy to develop, test and enhance U.S. missile defense systems.[19]

In November 2010, Orbital was selected by NASA for consideration for potential contract awards for heavy lift launch vehicle system concepts, and propulsion technologies.[20]

Advanced Programs Group (APG)

Orbital’s Advanced Programs Group focuses on developing new technologies for human spaceflight, commercial transportation, aeronautical research and space transportation.[21]

In support of human spaceflight, Orbital is developing a new medium-lift rocket, Antares, and a spacecraft, Cygnus spacecraft, which will provide supplies to occupants of the International Space Station. These programs are being developed under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), for which Orbital was selected as a partner in 2008. The company will provide resupply services to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program. Operational flights are scheduled to begin in 2012 from the new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island in Virginia.

Technical Services Division (TSD)

Orbital provides engineering, production and technical management personnel primarily for space-related science and defense programs. Typically, it supplies specialized personnel — engineers, scientists, technicians and other professionals — with specific knowledge in the areas that the customer is pursuing. The Orbital employees often work with the customers' technical staff at their facilities.[22]

Primary facility locations

Orbital products

International Space Station resupply

NASA constellation program

  • Launch Abort System (LAS) for Orion Capsule

Satellite launch vehicles

Experimental vehicles

Missile defense systems and ballistic target vehicles

Imaging and defense satellites

Science and environmental satellites

Geostationary satellites

STAR 2 platform
At its Satellite Manufacturing Facility (SMF) in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital builds medium-sized geosynchronous communication satellites based on the company's STAR 2 platform.

Planetary probes

Client countries

Launch sites


See also


External links

  • Orbital Sciences Corporation official website
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